BUJANOVAC, Yugoslavia — Thousands of angry Serbs stood vigil at blockaded roads near the Kosovo border Thursday, demanding a meeting with Yugoslavia's president and the ouster of militant ethnic Albanians from the region.
Independence-minded ethnic Albanians took control nearly a month ago of strategic points in the 3-mile-wide demilitarized zone that separates Kosovo from the rest of Serbia. Pressure is rising on President Vojislav Kostunica to use force against the rebels.
Several thousand Serbs spent the night near parked trucks, garbage containers and burning tires on roads to Bujanovac. The protesters, who put up the blockades Wednesday, also shut down the rail line and main roads linking Serbia with Macedonia and Greece to the south.
A key ally of Kostunica, Zoran Djindjic, told the Beta news agency that the crisis threatens the entire Balkan region. He said it is "imperative" to react "immediately and without compromise."
In Macedonia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials stepped up border patrols to prevent arms from being smuggled to the rebels. Maj. Gen. Volker Loew said some weapons had come from Albania, through Macedonia.
Ethnic Albanians make up the vast majority of the population in Kosovo, a province of Serbia, Yugoslavia's main republic.