OT (Overseas Topic) U.S. officials Rubin and Hill to visit Kosovo

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U.S. officials Rubin and Hill to visit Kosovo

WIRE:03/10/2000 15:39:00 ET

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - U.S. Balkans trouble-shooterChristopher Hill and State Department spokesman James Rubin will visit Kosovo this weekend to try to ease rising tensions there, a U.S. official said on Friday.

Philip Reeker, a spokesman traveling with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, made the announcement at the end of a nine-day visit to Europe during which tensions in and around Kosovo were high on her agenda.

Hill and Rubin will leave on Saturday and stay for three days, Reeker said.

In Washington, Rubin said he expected to meet U.N. officials, U.S. military officials, Kosovo Albanian leaders Ibrahim Rugova, Hashim Thaqi and Rexhep Qosja and Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije, who represents the Serb minority in Kosovo but opposes the regime of Milosevic.

"The secretary has asked me to ... assess the situation throughout the province and to urge the Kosovo Albanians to play a more constructive role," he added.

Said one U.S. official who asked not to be named: "They will probably deliver a fairly strong message."

Albright blames both the Belgrade government and extremists in Kosovo for stoking renewed tensions and has urged both sides to exercise restraint.

Rubin, who plans to leave his post in April, described the trip as his last diplomatic mission.

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-- Possible Impact (posim@hotmail.com), March 10, 2000

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