Kosovo fighting leaves 40,000 homeless - ALBANEWS June 4 FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 8 Jun 1998 20:21:05 -0700 (PDT)


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     U.N. SAYS 40,000 IN KOSOVO FLED
     Ismet Hajdari - Associated Press Writer - June 4, 1998


PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) - Tens of thousands of Kosovo residents have been
left homeless by fighting in the secessionist province, and many are still
hiding in forests hoping to escape, U.N. officials said today.

The U.N. refugee agency said 40,000 people have fled their homes in the
face of the campaign by Serb forces to crush militants in Kosovo. But that
figure is growing fast, and others say it is a conservative estimate.

Refugees continued to pour over the border into Albania today, U.N.
spokeswoman Judith Kumin in Geneva said.

Many refugees are still on the run within Kosovo, a Serb-ruled province
where ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs 9-to-1. TV Tirana estimated late
Wednesday that 50,000 people are ``waiting, hiding in the woods, mountains
and hills close to the border'' to get into Albania, Europe's poorest
country.

Albanian officials again pleaded for international assistance to help deal
with the crisis, saying that 12,000 people from Kosovo have arrived since
last weekend.

``Our possibilities for facing the new situation in the north are limited,
when the number of arrivals is increasing dramatically,'' Albanian Prime
Minister Fatos Nano said in a letter to NATO Secretary-General Javier
Solana.

As many as 7,000 other refugees have fled the battered Serbian province
into Montenegro, the other republic left in what remains of Yugoslavia
besides Serbia.

The Decani region of western Kosovo remained sealed off by Serb forces
today, and the extent of continued assaults by the Serb army, police and
paramilitary forces was unclear.

More than 250 people have been killed since the Serbs stepped up their
drive in March to destroy the pro-independence Kosovo Liberation Army,
which now claims to control about 40 percent of Kosovo. Dozens have been
killed since an intensive campaign began last week, and several villages
are reportedly in ruins after Serb attacks.

``It's our legitimate right to fight against terrorism,'' said the top Serb
government official in Kosovo, Veljko Odalovic. ``All our actions are
defensive in character. We are simply responding to attacks by
terrorists.''

The Kosovo Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for numerous deadly
attacks on Serb police in what it says is a war for independence from Serb
occupiers.

There are growing concerns that the Serbs are forcing out ethnic Albanians
in a policy similar to the ``ethnic cleansing'' that ravaged Bosnia. In
response, Odalovic claimed ethnic Albanians have ``cleansed entire villages
of their Serb populations.''

The militants' growing popularity in the provincial capital, Pristina, was
demonstrated today when more than 10,000 ethnic Albanians flooded the main
street to protest the latest Serb violence.

The crowd chanted ``U-C-K,'' the Albanian-language acronym for the Kosovo
Liberation Army, and some carried placards reading ``NATO help save
Kosovo.''

Western officials are debating whether to send in troops or impose new
sanctions against Yugoslavia. But the West is reluctant to commit a huge
military contingent to the region, with 34,000 troops already in
neighboring Bosnia.


--------


Thursday June 4 7:58 AM EDT

Thousands Homeless in Kosovo

ISMET HAJDARI Associated Press Writer

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) - Tens of thousands of Kosovo residents have been
left homeless by fighting in the secessionist province, and many are hiding
in forests hoping to escape, reports said Thursday.

Thousands of refugees have flooded into neighboring Albania, where
officials again pleaded for international assistance to help deal with the
crisis. Upwards of 5,000 people from Kosovo are believed to have arrived in
Albania since the weekend.

``Our possibilities for facing the new situation in the north are limited,
when the number of arrivals is increasing dramatically,'' Albanian Prime
Minister Fatos Nano said in a letter to NATO Secretary-General Javier
Solana released Thursday.

``Collaborating together (with NATO) is the only way to save human lives
and the peace in Kosovo,'' he said.

As many as 7,000 others have fled the battered Serbian province into
Montenegro, one of the two remaining republics in Yugoslavia, Montenegro's
commissioner for refugees said Thursday. Most are women, children and
elderly, Djordje Scepanovic said.

The U.N. refugee agency says 40,000 people in Kosovo have fled their homes
in the face of the campaign by Serb forces to crush militants in Kosovo.
The 40,000 have fled to Albania, Montenegro or elsewhere in Kosovo.

But that figure is growing fast, and others say it is a conservative
estimate. Ethnic Albanian officials in Kosovo claim 50,000 have been
displaced since the start of an earlier crackdown in March.

Many are still on the run within Kosovo, a Serb-ruled province where the
population is 90 percent ethnic Albanian.

The Albanian-language daily Bujku reported Thursday said thousands are
headed toward the border with Albania, Europe's poorest country, which
already is feeling the strain of the refugee crush.

The Decani region of western Kosovo remained sealed off Thursday, and the
extent of continued assaults by Serb army, police and paramilitary forces
was unclear.

More than 250 people have been killed since the Serbs stepped up their
drive in March to destroy the pro-independence Kosovo Liberation Army,
which now claims to control about 40 percent of Kosovo's territory. Dozens
of deaths are reported since an intensive campaign began last week.

Western officials are debating whether to send in troops or impose new
sanctions against Yugoslavia. NATO chief Solana said Wednesday that all
options remain open, although the West is openly reluctant to commit a huge
military contingent to the region, with 34,000 troops already in Bosnia.

The latest Serb campaign has caused the apparent collapse of talks that
opened last month between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and ethnic
Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova.

``It is evident violence has escalated to such a point that negotiations
would now be meaningless,'' said Fehmi Agani, member of the ethnic Albanian
negotiating team.


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