Russia may attend Kosovo contact group meeting

MOSCOW, Mar 20, 2000 -- (Reuters) Russia believes Kosovo is again is a serious situation and does not exclude the possibility of a meeting of the six-nation contact group on Yugolsavia, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Sunday.

"Even though we haven't been happy with the contact group's work, it is now essential to put into action all means possible to solve the situation in Kosovo," Ivanov told a press conference.

"Everything should be done to maintain peace," he said, "the situation there is currently very serious."

Russian diplomatic sources recently indicated that Russia could participate in a meeting of the contact group's foreign ministers, due to take place in Paris on March 28.

But Russia wants to know where the contact group stands on such a meeting before taking any decisions.

The contact group, which consists of the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Britain and Italy, helped set a unified international position during the break-up of Yugoslavia.

It last met in February 1999 during the failed Kosovo peace talks near Paris. But since the NATO air war on Yugoslavia last year, Russia has kept its distance.

On Friday, Russia blasted the failure of the NATO-led peace force KFOR for failing to protect non-Albanians in Kosovo from ethnic cleansing of "catastrophic proportions."

Russia warned that the West would have to shoulder the blame if Kosovo split from Yugoslavia.

"The task of the peacekeeping force, that is to say ensuring security in the region and the return of refugees, is not being met," Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev told a session of the State Duma lower house of parliament.

"Instead, we have a genocide and ethnic cleansing of the non-Albanian population which have reached the level of a humanitarian catastrophe," he said.

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