Eight Kosovo Albanians sentenced


BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) -- A Serbian court sentenced eight ethnic Albanians for membership in the officially disbanded rebel Kosovo Liberation Army, the state-run daily Politika said Thursday.

The court in Leskovac, a city 150 miles southeast of the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, sentenced the eight on charges they ``enlisted with the KLA in 1998, built bunkers, carried out surveillance of Yugoslav army troop movements and participated in attacks against the military and police'' in Kosovo, the newspaper said.

In one attack, several Serbian policemen were injured.

Of the eight, all from the Kosovo region of Orahovac, one was tried and sentenced to five years in absentia. The remaining seven, all in police custody, received prison sentences ranging from two to five years.

Serb-led Yugoslav forces battled the KLA for 18 months in Kosovo until NATO bombarded Yugoslavia last spring, forcing the withdrawal of all Belgrade's troops from the province. NATO-led peacekeepers now have control of Kosovo.

China on Thursday condemned NATO's war over Kosovo anew, pledging to play an active role in rebuilding Yugoslavia, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said at a twice-weekly news briefing in Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan told his Yugoslav counterpart, Zivadin Jovanovic, earlier this week, ``the Chinese side deeply sympathized with the severe damage to the economy caused by U.S.-led NATO's bombing,'' she said.

Tang promised that the Chinese government ``will participate in the reconstruction of Yugoslavia'' and will encourage Chinese enterprises to take part, Zhang said.

Yugoslavia's official Tanjug news agency, however, has reported that the state-run Import and Export Bank of China has extended $53 million in credits.

With restive minorities of its own in Tibet and the Muslim northwest, China criticized NATO for failing to get explicit U.N. approval before bombing Yugoslavia to stop repression of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian minority. Beijing's opposition hardened after U.S. warplanes destroyed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.

On Thursday, NATO officials said two Russian peacekeepers were injured when their vehicle struck a land mine near where an American soldier serving alongside Russian forces was killed in similar incident two weeks ago.

The Russians had been patrolling an area near Kosovska Kamenica, 20 miles southeast of Pristina in the American-controlled sector of the province, on Wednesday.

One of the Russians was slightly injured and the other received head wounds, the NATO-led peacekeeping command said in a statement. He was reported resting comfortably Thursday at the American-run Camp Bondsteel.

NATO refused to speculate whether the land mine had been recently planted or was left over from the Serb crackdown in Kosovo.

On Dec. 15, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Suponcic, 26, of Jersey Shore, Pa., was killed when his Humvee hit a land mine near Kosovska Kamenica. He was serving as liaison with the Russian 13th Tactical group.

American troops are popular among Albanians for Washington's role in driving Serb forces from the province in June. Many ethnic Albanians, however, hate the Russians because of Moscow's support of Belgrade.

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