International consternation over renewed Kosovo violence

MUNICH, Feb 5, 2000 -- (AFP) US Defense Secretary William Cohen called Friday for police reinforcements to be sent to Kosovo following a flare-up of ethnic violence which sparked international outrage.

Representatives of the European Union (EU), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and international organizations working in Kosovo all called for an end to the clashes between Serbian and Albanian Kosovars.

Seven Muslims were killed overnight and people from both communities wounded in an outbreak of fighting in the divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica in the north of the province. Two Serbs had been killed Wednesday in a rocket attack on a bus near the town, and 11 young Serbs were in critical condition late Friday.

"What we need is more police on the ground, we need to get the (local civilian) institutions started that will establish the rule of law," Cohen said in Munich, where he is attending a security conference.

He said that European countries had pledged more policemen and urged them to speed up their dispatch.

The EU high representative for foreign policy, Javier Solana, deplored the new wave of violence and called on ethnic Albanians and Serbs to show restraint.

In a statement, Solana -- who as NATO secretary general oversaw last year's air war which forced Serbian forces to withdraw from Kosovo -- said the EU was "determined" to help make the province democratic and multi-ethnic.

"I strongly appeal to both communities to avoid any further escalation (of violence) and to exercise utmost restraint," he said.

"I am convinced that the citizens of Mitrovica which nothing more than the return to a normal and secure life," he said.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata said she was alarmed by the "wave of ethnic violence" her representatives had witnessed in Mitrovica.

"Violence between Serbs and Albanians must cease and the (UNHCR) and its partners' mission should be respected in Kosovo, she said in a statement released in Geneva.

Susan Manuel, the chief spokeswoman for the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which is setting up a joint administration between its officers and local representatives, described the explosion of violence as "terrifying."

German General Klaus Reinhardt, the commander of KFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force in the province, ordered his troops to use all means at their disposal to halt the violence, his spokesman said in Pristina.

The official Yugoslav news agency Tanjug meanwhile said in an editorial that the latest incidents proved that "chaos, lawlessness and anarchy rule the province" while KFOR and UNMIK did not care.

"Their policy of tolerance and direct support to Albanian terrorists and separatists obviously remains unchanged," the editorial said.