Albanian Daily News
Premier urges Kosovars to show restrain

Feb 08, 2000

TIRANA - Premier Ilir Meta urged ethnic Albanians living in Serbia to be cool and not respond to provocations aimed at destabilising the situation, a government spokesman said on Monday.

Meta met on Sunday with leaders of the National Union Party (NUP), representing Albanians living in three districts outside Kosovo. Thousands of Albanians were forced by a Serb police crack-down to leave the districts of Medvedja, Presevo and Bujanovac for Kosovo, NUP leaders told the Albanian Premier.

Most of the ethnic Albanians live within the five-kilometre police-free zone near the eastern border of Kosovo. Ethnic Albanians call that area eastern Kosovo, and during the last months increased Serbian police presence was reported in the area, aside with bursting of violence.

"You should not respond to provocations aimed at destabilising the situation in Kosovo, and the consolidation of peace there," Meta said.

The premier told the ethnic Albanian politicians that the government would step up its efforts to secure the release of NUP chairman Ukshin Hoti, held in Serbian jail, and thousands of other Kosovo Albanians "taken hostage" by the retreating Yugoslav army at the end of the Kosovo conflict.

Last week in Presevo, Riza Halimi, a senior member of the Party of Democratic Activity (PDD), said that in the three municipalities in the south of Serbia, in which the Albanians are the majority, the "psychosis of the Kosovo events" can be felt every day.

Halimi, the municipal chairman of Presevo, said that "the dissatisfaction of the Albanians is increasing."

He said that "the police and army in the region of the Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja municipalities have increased their presence three to four times in comparison to the pre-war situation...

"This creates an impression of distrust, rather than tolerance. There is something wrong in the current situation, and I am afraid it might escalate," Halimi said.

Original article