Belgrade blames West for Kosovo violence

BELGRADE, Feb 25, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslav officials blamed the West on Thursday for this month's violence in Mitrovica, rejecting accusations that Belgrade was fomenting trouble in the ethnically divided Kosovo city.

"The sequence of events clearly showed that it was a planned and coordinated scenario," Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic told a news conference.

Giving his view of events in the flashpoint city, he said:

"First the terrorists (ethnic Albanians) threw bombs at a cafe, wounding 16 people of whom one child died, and then the tune 'Serbs are guilty' was played."

He accused U.S. soldiers of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force of conducting what he described as a brutal search for weapons in schools and other buildings in the Serb-dominated northern part of the city.

A Serbian ultra-nationalist leader took a similar line at a separate news conference.

"The American anti-Serb strategy in Kosovo and Metohija has been completely exposed," said Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, who also heads the Radical party.

Sainovic, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and three other top Yugoslav officials were indicted last May by a U.N. court for alleged war crimes in Kosovo during NATO's March-to-June bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

Western officials have accused the Belgrade leadership of stirring up trouble in Mitrovica, where ethnic violence has claimed nine lives this month, most of them Kosovo Albanians.

NATO military chief Wesley Clark said in an interview published on Thursday: "Mitrovica is going to be multi-ethnic, and that means ending the intimidation and other dirty work of the military units, gangs and thugs who have been sent there by Belgrade."

American U.N. Envoy Richard Holbrooke accused Milosevic of trying to partition Kosovo with a line through Mitrovica, describing it as the most dangerous place in Europe.

In response, officials in Belgrade said the West was cooperating with Albanian "terrorists" seeking to expel remaining Serbs from Kosovo.

"The Americans are planning, instructing and coordinating their actions," Seselj said.

Sainovic said events in Mitrovica were in fact orchestrated by those who blamed Belgrade for destabilizing the city.

"In the end, the same tune under the same slogan comes from Clark, Robertson, Holbrooke: 'Belgrade destabilizes Mitrovica'."

Milosevic last week called on KFOR and the U.N-led administration of Kosovo to leave, saying they had failed to bring peace and that Belgrade authorities should take over control of the troubled province.

Original article