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Scheffer: Kosovo-Albanian Leaders Must Condemn Violence

Pristina, 22 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer today accused ethnic Albanian extremists of "orchestrating" anti-Serb violence in the Serbian province.

Scheffer called upon Kosovo Albanian leaders to condemn the ethnic violence.

Some 2,000 NATO reinforcements were deployed to the province last week after 28 people were killed in clashes, more than 600 injured, and over 3,000 people driven from their homes.

Most of the dead are ethnic Serbs. Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said in Brussels today: "It is essential that the political leaders in Kosovo take responsibility for the situation and act to ensure that the death and destruction visited on innocent people of the past week comes to an end. There must be no tolerance for ethnically motivated violence, and those responsible must be brought to justice."

Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic complained today to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan about alleged attempts by UN mission chief Harri Holkeri to downplay the last week's violence in Kosovo.

Holkeri is quoted as having told a U.S. radio station that the term "ethnic cleansing" was too strong. Kosovo is administered by the United Nations.

Meanwhile, UN police in Serbia's Kosovo province said today that 163 people have been arrested in retaliation to last week's ethnic violence that left 28 people killed.

UN police spokeswoman Angela Joseph said that detainees were suspected of various offenses ranging from unlawful possession of arms to arson.

She did not disclose the ethnic background of the arrested and how many of them remain in custody.

Joseph said that over 50,000 people were estimated to have participated in the clashes between the province's Serbian minority and the Albanian majority since 17 March. Hundreds of homes and dozens of churches were set on fire.