Newsday - Kosovo children trade in war toys

1999-12-22
By MIHAELA ARMASELU - Associated Press Writer

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) -- Hundreds of ethnic Albanian children traded war toys for teddy bears, cars and dolls on Wednesday in a pre-Christmas giveaway intended to promote peace in Kosovo.

About 300 children handed in the plastic rifles, guns and knives long popular in Kosovo. In exchange, the Save the Children charity handed out toys intended to promote peace -- or at least more innocent play.

``Our children have to learn that the war is over, '' said Nerimane Kamberi, 32, accompanied by his 4-year-old-son, Bind. ``As the adults have given up their weapons, they have to give them, too.''

Bind Kamberi turned over four plastic pistols, one play rifle and a huge toy knife before happily trotting away with a bag laden with little cars, a small basketball, a toy piano and books.

Not all the children brought toy weapons. One boy brought rifle and pistol bullets while another brought a real pistol that works with dummy cartridges.

NATO peacekeepers, who entered Kosovo in June after a 78-day air war, supervising the delivery. They said they were not shocked that children showed up with deadly weapons.

``Two months ago, during a similar festivity, a child and his parents brought an anti-tank rocket launcher,'' said Lance Cpl. Vince King, a British peacekeeper.

Some members of the former Kosovo Liberation Army also delivered toys to the children. Later, some with tears in their eyes, they watched a concert held for the children.

``It's time for us, and our children, to start a real life,'' said Naser Ramadani, 32.

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