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Yugoslavia: Kosovar Leader Condemns Violence Between Ethnic Albanians

United Nations, 22 August 2000 (RFE/RL) -- A leading Kosovo Albanian leader has condemned recent violent attacks involving Kosovar politicians, saying they represent a threat to the province's move toward democracy.

Hashim Thaci, who leads the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), said today that despite the violence, he believes the local elections set for October will proceed fairly. He also said he expects Kosovo's minority Serbs to participate in the polls and to be integrated into the province's institutions after the elections are held.

Thaci spoke at a press conference at UN headquarters. He is concluding a trip to the United States, during which he met with U.S. State Department and congressional officials. He also attended the convention in Los Angeles last week at which the U.S. Democratic Party chose Vice President Al Gore to be its candidate for president.

In response to questions, Thaci repeatedly said he saw democracy progressing in Kosovo. He said local elections would help provide a basis for general elections in the province and contribute to what he called the democratization of the Balkans.

Thaci pointed to democratic changes in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia and said he believed pro-democracy forces would eventually win out in Montenegro. He also said he considered the general elections planned for Yugoslavia next month as "elections in a neighboring country."

He viewed the elections planned for Kosovo on October 28 to be part of the development of a new democratic order and an "independent life" for Kosovo free of Belgrade's control.

Thaci's visit to the United States comes at a time of mounting concern about the violence in Kosovo. In recent weeks, one local leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which rivals Thaci's PDK, has been murdered and two more have been shot and wounded. An office of the ethnic Albanian party in the town of Malisevo was destroyed by an explosion on Friday night.

Many international officials see the LDK, led by Ibrahim Rugova, as more moderate than its main rivals.