Sporadic fighting between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Serbian police in the Serbian province of Kosovo in southern Yugoslavia escalated to a high-profile conflict in early March 1998 when Serbian police and paramilitary forces began blasting ethnic Albanian villages in the area surrounding the capital, Pristina, killing dozens of defenseless residents. Fearing the possibility of another full-scale Balkan war, the "Contact Group" (consisting of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia) set up to monitor adherence to the Dayton Accords of 1995, which ended the Bosnian Civil War of 1992-95, imposed an arms embargo on Yugoslavia on May 9. Alone among Contact Group members, the US favored harsher penalties against the Serbs; in the meantime it was discovered that the Russians had agreed to sell arms to Yugoslavia the previous December, in violation of the Dayton Accords. The province of Kosovo, 90 percent of whose 2 million inhabitants are ethnic Albanians, had been stripped in 1989 of its autonomous status within the republic of Serbia by then-president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic (1941-) in reaction to the province's demand for independence. In the following years a movement of peaceful civil resistance among the Kosovars (ethnic Albanians in Kosovo) led by moderate Ibrahim Rugova (1944-) had achieved a certain degree of success by boycotting Serbian administrative institutions. Rather than compromise by offering Kosovo the status of an autonomous republic within the state of Yugoslavia -- the status of Serbia and Montenegro -- Milosevic, who subsequently became president of Yugoslavia, persisted in a policy of police rule in Kosovo. The police sweeps of March 1998, an action diplomats considered a foolish move, merely served to galvanize resistance among the vast Albanian majority. As Serbian forces continued to shell villages, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which began as a small band of poorly equipped men but quickly swelled with volunteers and arms supplied by Albania, gained control of 40 percent of the province. In early June, Milosevic stepped up his campaign of flushing the Kosovars from their homes, causing thousands of refugees to flee for their lives to Albania. Meanwhile US efforts to help settle the conflict failed, and Contact Group members continued to disagree about sanctions. In August 1998, a Serbian offensive drove KLA rebels from their strongholds, and fighting centered on escape routes into Albania, where Kosovars maintained sanctuaries; both sides reviewed a blueprint for peace negotiations. Serbian terrorism against villagers brought UN condemnation. Clashes between Serbian security forces and rebels (as well as civilians) resulted in about 50 killings in December 1998, adding urgency to efforts by the Contact Group members to negotiate a permanent peace. The warring sides sent delegations to peace talks in Rambouillet, France, in February 1999. Serb forces continued attacks on Kosovo Albanians, while Belgrade fortified its border with Macedonia (the likely staging area for any NATO peacekeeping force). US envoy Richard C. A. Holbrooke (1941-), architect of the Dayton Accords, unsuccessfully tried to persuade Milosevic to sign onto a US-sponsored peace plan (March 10, 1999), and NATO began a strategic bombing campaign on March 24. More than 2,000 people have died and 300,000 have been displace since the fighting began.