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Yugoslavia: Refugee Flight Leaves Much Of Kosovo Empty

Geneva/Pristina; 4 August 1998 (RFE/RL) - Officials with the United Nations refugee agency say civilians continue to flee fighting in Kosovo, leaving large parts of the Serbian province uninhabited. UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski told reporters in Geneva that some 200,000 have fled since Belgrade began a crackdown five months ago against Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanians.

He said tens of thousands have fled since a Serb offensive began over a week ago. Janowski said the latest fighting is interfering with UN aid efforts and described the refugees as "terrified."

U.S. envoy Christopher Hill today is visiting two towns seized by Serb forces in recent days. Hill said he wants to see whether conditions in Orahovac and Malisevo are good enough to allow a return of refugees. He said if refugees are not able to return within a week or two, a "humanitarian nightmare" will develop.

Both Serb and ethnic Albanian sources say Serb forces gained ground today against the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) in fighting in the Drenica region, 40 kilometers west of the provincial capital Pristina.

Fighting continues despite a pledge last week from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that the latest offensive had ended. The European Union and the United States called yesterday for an end to fighting. The U.S. again warned Belgrade of possible NATO intervention.