Calm night in Kosovo flashpoint city, KFOR says

PRISTINA, Serbia, Feb 6, 2000 -- (Reuters) The NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force on Saturday reported calm overnight in the Kosovo city of Mitrovica, scene of a recent eruption of violence between ethnic Serbs and Albanians.

KFOR had imposed a curfew from Friday night into Saturday morning in the northern city after clashes the previous evening which left six people dead and more than 20 wounded.

The curfew was generally respected and the night passed off without any major incident, a spokesman for French forces who patrol the city said. "What we need is a return to calm and to normal life," added the spokesman, Captain Olivier Saint-Leger.

Most of Thursday night's violence took place in the Serb-dominated northern part of the ethnically divided city and most of the dead were Kosovo Albanians, KFOR said.

Some Albanian families who felt unsafe for the moment in the northern district had been escorted to the southern side, Saint-Leger told Reuters.

He said several dozen families had been transferred but stressed the measure was only temporary and had been carried out at the request of the families concerned.

"We do this on request because we're here to assure security," the spokesman said.

Albanian leaders in the city have warned of the danger that northern Mitrovica could be "ethnically cleansed" of Albanians as a result of the violence.

The violence came hard on the heels of a deadly rocket attack on a UN bus carrying Serbs in the Mitrovica region on Wednesday. Two Serbs were killed and three were wounded.

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said on Saturday that the level of violence in Kosovo was unacceptable - but people are far better off there than they were a year ago.