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UN Staff Leave Kosovo

Pristina, 19 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- UN staff have been evacuated from Kosovo's flashpoint town of Mitrovice where two days of ethnic violence have left 31 dead.

Speaking to a special session of the UN Security Council, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the decision had been made because of the worsening security situation.

The Security Council called the violence "unacceptable" and demanded that it stop immediately. Goran Svilanovic, the foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, told the council "ethnic cleansing" had returned to the Balkans and he denounced local ethnic Albanian leaders as ineffective.

"They cannot or do not want to go out on the streets and prevent this kind of mass violence from happening. They want authority -- and a lot of authority was transferred to them -- however, they ignore responsibilities that come with authority," Svilanovic said.

Yesterday, angry mobs of ethnic Albanians set fire to several Serbian Orthodox churches in the UN-administered province, including one in the provincial capital Pristina.

NATO announced it is sending up to 1,000 more troops to bolster the 18,500 already there. Thirty-five of its peacekeepers have been among the 500 wounded in the two days of violence.

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