US gives tacit support to extremists, criminals

PRISTINA, Aug 31, 2000 -- (AFP) Moderate Kosovo Serbian leaders opposed to Slobodan Milosevic's Belgrade regime on Wednesday accused the United States of turning a blind eye to ethnic Albanian extremism.

The spokesman of the Serbian National Council (SNV) said that Washington was still locked into the idea of ethnic Albanian militants as "freedom fighters" and unwilling to recognize that some were involved in ethnically motivated violence and organized crime.

Father Sava Janjic said that in meetings Tuesday with US officials the SNV president, Bishop Artemije Radosavljevic, had urged them to take a fresh look at the province and to distance themselves from extremism.

"Bishop Artemije insisted that the US has to come out clearly with a definition of what's going on in Kosovo," Sava told reporters at a Pristina news conference.

"Albanian extremism is regarded as something non-existent and very easily proclaimed as just freedom fighting, so when Serbs and their government leave Kosovo it will become an oasis of peace. But we can see that Kosovo is anything but an oasis of peace."

Sava said that Belgrade's "state terrorism" had been strongly opposed by the United States, but complained that violence committed by former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was being ignored.

"We still can see that certain people in the American administration are still co-operating with people who are seriously suspected of being even now involved in certain illegal activities," he said.

Two former KLA leaders, Hashim Thaci of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and Ramush Haradinaj of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), have been received by officials in Washington. Thaci was also a guest at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles earlier this month.

Since the arrival of a NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo in June last year and the retreat of Belgrade's forces, which had been fighting the KLA, around 210,000 Serbs have fled the province to escape revenge attacks.

On Sunday an eight-year-old Serbian girl was killed by an Albanian hit and run driver and a 75-year-old farmer shot dead in a drive by shooting. Serbs have placed both attacks in the contact of a campaign of hatred against them organized by ethnic Albanian extremists.

In July the leaders of Kosovo's main ethnic Albanian parties and representatives of the SNV signed an agreement in Airlie House, Virginia, to avoid violence and work out their differences democratically.

But Sava said that SNV members had gathered extensive evidence that former KLA fighters were involved in ethnic violence, crime and smuggling, and said the basis of the Airlie House agreement was undermined by Albanian leaders' failure to reign in their supporters.

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