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Marines move into Kosovo
NATO tries to work out a compromise over Russia's peace role

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- More than 1,200 U.S. Marines began moving into Kosovo Monday to take up positions in what will become the U.S.-controlled zone of the Yugoslav province. Diplomats struggled to find a compromise with Russia over its role in the peacekeeping operation.

NATO said more than 14,300 allied troops have entered Kosovo in the three days since the international peace mission began, with up to 200 flowing in every hour. The allied forces fanning out across the province began to uncover evidence of atrocities.President Slobodan Milosevic, in his first public appearance since he agreed to a peace plan last week, said Monday that the worst was over for Yugoslavia and that it was time to start rebuilding.

"The most difficult 11 weeks in our history are behind us," the state-run Tanjug news agency quoted him as saying at a ceremony to launch the rebuilding of a Danube River bridge destroyed by NATO missiles in the northern town of Beska.

NATO played down the standoff with Russian soldiers who have taken control of the airport in Pristina, the provincial capital of Kosovo.

NATO's spokesman said British commander Lt. Gen. Michael Jackson, who helped negotiate the peace deal with Yugoslavia, was holding talks with the leader of the Russian troops in Pristina.

"There is no friction at all," Jamie Shea said, denying Russia's control of the airport was hindering NATO's deployment. "For NATO, the airport is not needed at this stage."

NATO said the allies would set up NATO's forward tactical headquarters south of Pristina.

Jackson told reporters in Pristina Monday that a "relatively small force . . . an advance party" of Russians made up the Pristina airport contingent and said he had no fear the situation would worsen.

Shea said NATO troops already in Kosovo included 4,300 British, 2,800 French, 2,500 Germans, 2,300 Italians and 2,100 Americans.

He confirmed NATO soldiers shot to death two Serbs who threatened them Sunday, while the weekly newsmagazine Stern identified two German journalists killed in southern Kosovo by gunmen as a staff photographer and reporter. The magazine said its translator was missing.

The Foreign Ministry retracted its report earlier Monday that the body of a third person carrying German press credentials was found near Suva Reka, where the Stern reporters were shot. The error was the result of confusion over the location of Sunday's shooting.

Stern identified the staffers killed near Dulje as photographer Volker Kraemer, 56, and reporter Gabriel Gruener, 35.

"We are shocked and at a loss. The two colleagues were among the most experienced and sensible reporters at Stern," Stern's chief editor Michael Maier said.

The Marines' convoy moved at first light Monday from Macedonia.

One group of Marines on the main road to Pristina ducked into combat position behind its vehicles when it heard gunfire coming from houses a quarter-mile away.

"We were all a little edgy going in. We've got our guard up," said Cpl. Will Rapier, 20, of Paintsville, Ky., with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines. "We just hope to get this thing over so we can all go home."

President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin spoke again Monday about continuing Kosovo issues, the Interfax news agency reported.

In an hourlong conversation Sunday, the two leaders agreed that their generals should work out a role for the 200 Russian soldiers already in Kosovo while negotiating arrangements for a larger Russian contingent, White House spokesman Mike Hammer said.

The NATO peacekeeping mission saw its first casualties Sunday: two armed men shot dead by soldiers in separate incidents.

British paratroopers fatally shot a Yugoslav police reservist in Pristina after the man fired at a NATO patrol, the alliance said.

In Prizren, the province's second-largest city, German troops responded to heavy sniper fire, killing an armed man and wounding another. They also had to cool a confrontation between rock-throwing Albanians and retreating Serb militiamen.

British troops reported finding 81 graves thought to contain the remains of massacre victims in Kacanik, a town in southern Kosovo (see story on A4).

Under an agreement reached between Yugoslavia and NATO, Yugoslav troops and Serb paramilitaries are to withdraw from Kosovo by June 20. The alliance said about 10,000 Serb military personnel had left the province -- one-quarter of the forces in Kosovo.

The Kosovo Albanian fighters were quick to use the Serb pullout to take control of as much as possible of the province, kidnapping three Serb miners and a driver and taking over the Morini crossing point on the Albanian border.

Clutching teddy bears, pet dogs and rifles, Serb citizens and soldiers streamed out of Kosovo's second-largest city Monday, many fearing reprisals for the repression of their Albanian neighbors.

With belongings lashed to the top of their cars, the new refugees said they were heading north to Pristina or all the way to Serbia proper. Many were lifelong residents of Prizren.

"We are trying to tell people not to leave, but they are scared of the UCK," said Ugliesa Popovic, a Serb theology professor, using the Albanian acronym for guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army.