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Yugoslavia: Kosovar Albanian Activist Appeals To NATO

By Lisa Kammerud

Prague, 9 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- An ethnic Albanian activist in the Serbian province of Kosova says NATO troops should be sent to the region immediately to stop escalating violence.

Edita Tahiri, the foreign affairs adviser for Kosovar Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova, told RFE/RL that the international community should "take necessary measures to stop the violence" in Kosova.

Tahiri praised the actions taken by the United States and others so far, especially in light of what she termed the "unpredictable logic" of Serbian violence. But she said more needs to be done.

"We demand that the international community act to defend the Albanian people from Serb aggression, declare Kosova a zone that threatens international peace and security, and immediately send NATO peacekeeping troops to Kosova."

She said the world will otherwise be criticized for only extinguishing conflict flare-ups instead of preventing them.

Violence between Serb and ethnic Albanian armed forces which began earlier this year has escalated in the last week. The conflict has been a major concern for world leaders because of the risk that the fighting could draw in other countries in the region, such as Albania or Macedonia and Greece.

According to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Serbian forces were to crack down on alleged terrorists of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

However, the result has been the killing of Kosova Albanian civilians by Serbian armed forces, provoking outrage in the international community.

Kosovar Albanian forces say they are fighting for independence from Serbia. They have engaged Serbian troops in many areas.

Hundreds of ethnic Albanians have been killed in what many say is 'ethnic cleansing,' as Serb forces have moved through the Kosova border region with Albania, destroying villages and killing or driving out inhabitants.

Thousands of refugees have fled to neighboring Albania and Macedonia.

In the latest international reaction to Serbian violence, European Union foreign ministers agreed yesterday to ban all new investments in Serbia. They also voted to freeze Yugoslav assets in the 15 EU member states.

An arms and police equipment embargo against Yugoslavia is already in effect.

A member of the Kosovar Albanian's negotiating team, Tahiri said planned talks between Kosovar Albanian leaders and Serbian officials were suspended by the Albanians last week in the face of increased violence by Serb forces.

"As far as the talks are concerned we have not accepted them -- we have suspended them because of the violence of Serbian army and police. This only shows that Belgrade wishes to implement two procedures at the same time: violence and dialogue. We think that these are incompatible."

Tahiri said "the United States and different European institutions, through NATO support, should [work to] create the possibility of a dialogue."

Tahiri said she hoped the international community would not repeat mistakes made in past wars in the former Yugoslavia.

Tahiri noted that the Kosovar Albanians had resisted Serbian control peacefully for nine years, and said, "this should be one more motive for the international community to be more proactive" in ending the current bloodshed.

She said that current measures against Milosevic are "not that effective, and that is why the international community should act directly in Kosova."

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said yesterday that the "heavy-handed" actions of Milosevic have increased the possibility of international military intervention. Cook said the EU and NATO are looking for the mandate of the UN Security Council that such intervention requires.

China, a UN Security Council member, said on Tuesday it does not support direct intervention.

NATO officials have stated earlier a clear mission goal and plan of action would be worked out before any troops were sent, to avoid the mistakes of the initial UN effort in Bosnia.

Arbana Islami, a member of RFE/RL's South Slavic Service, has contributed to this story.