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Kosovo Albanians Seek NATO Intervention as More Villagers Flee

June 04, 1998| From Associated Press

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia — Kosovo's ethnic Albanians pleaded Wednesday for NATO intervention to stop what they called a Serbian campaign of forced expulsions from their independence-seeking province. An additional 2,000 villagers poured across the border into Albania to escape the Serbian onslaught.

Serbian police and paramilitary units shelled at least five villages in western Kosovo, setting houses ablaze and sending more residents fleeing into neighboring Albania, according to ethnic Albanian sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Serbian authorities have sealed off the area of the conflict, making it impossible to independently assess the situation. Dozens are believed dead since Serbs stepped up their campaign to wipe out the pro-independence Kosovo Liberation Army last week. At least 80 people were killed in a similar crackdown in March; in all this year, clashes have killed more than 200 people.

International monitors near the border said houses could be seen in flames in the besieged village of Junik. The pro-Albanian Kosovo Information Center said the fighting was spreading east of Djakovica, one of the hot spots for the last several days.

In Washington, the State Department signaled the possibility of additional international sanctions against Yugoslavia for provoking the flood of refugees from Kosovo, a province of Serbia, which along with Montenegro makes up Yugoslavia.

Top aides to Ibrahim Rugova, the president of the ethnic Albanians' self-proclaimed independent government, talked with a European delegation in Pristina, Kosovo's capital. The Albanians accused the Serbs of a "planned-out scheme of 'ethnic cleansing' throughout the province."

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization must intervene, they told the delegation from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

A spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Wednesday that 2,000 refugees had crossed overnight into Albania, bringing the total to about 3,700 since the Serbian assault was launched late last week.

Albania's state-run ATA news agency said about 3,000 more refugees were approaching the border.

In the Serbian and Yugoslav capital of Belgrade, the Telegraf daily said that about 100 police officers had been fired for refusing to fight in the province.

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