Central Europe On Line

Kosovo Attacks Must Stop, US's Walker Says

PRISTINA, Nov 4, 1999 -- (Reuters) William Walker, who drew world attention to Serb massacres in Kosovo, delivered a powerful message to ethnic Albanians on Wednesday to halt reprisals against other minorities or risk losing world support.

"What those who are committing such acts are doing is to give ammunition to those who want to say that Albanians are no better than those they claim repressed them," Walker told an overflow crowd at Pristina's National Theatre.

Walker, a 64-year-old career American diplomat, spoke after a week that has seen repeated attacks by ethnic Albanians on Serbs and other Kosovo minorities.

Walker, who as head of a team of more than 1,000 Kosovo verifiers blew the whistle on Serb atrocities in the village of Racak last January, was given honorary citizenship by the provisional government headed by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

Thaci, who also gave Walker a gold-plated key to Kosovo, said Albanians honored Walker for having made a decision that put his career and possibly his life in jeopardy.

Walker said he was glad his exposure of Serb killings of ethnic Albanians had been part of the process which led to ridding Kosovo of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "and his gang."

But Walker, on his first return visit to Kosovo since he and the other members of the verification mission were forced to flee in March before the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, said he was dismayed at the recent turn of events.

Within the past week, ethnic Albanians attacked a convoy of Serb refugees leaving Kosovo, a prominent Kosovo Serb politician was wounded and several Serbs have been killed, including a 69-year-old woman found shot dead in western Kosovo.

"The world heard your cries when you were victims...we felt the pain obviously of Racak," Walker said.

But he said the world feels "similar pain of other ethnicities within Kosovo if Serb life is threatened and Romas are subject to abuse and harm".

A crowd of about 5,000 people waited outside the theatre for Walker to show up about an hour late, and chanted "Walker, Walker" as he made his way inside surrounded by heavy security.

In an interview, Walker told Reuters he had no regrets for his actions. "There's a lot of revisionist history being written now...that somehow or other it was all a plot to bring NATO in here," he said.

"That was not it at all. Racak was a massacre, it was committed by the security services of Belgrade and it had to be denounced and it had to be described for what it was."

The Serbian government has suggested the bodies found in Racak were put there by ethnic Albanians trying to win world sympathy and force NATO's entry into the conflict.