CEOL
Kosovo Serb leader meets with Nato top general

BELGRADE, Mar 8, 2000 -- (Reuters) Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic met with NATO General Wesley Clark on Tuesday in Kosovska Mitrovica where 16 peacekeepers were wounded earlier in grenade attacks and asked for more protection for Serbs, Beta news agency reported.

The peacekeepers, all French, were wounded by schrapnel in the attacks that followed riots in the ethnically-divided town in which at least 24 people, mostly Serbs, were injured.

Ivanovic, self-proclaimed mayor of the Serb-populated northern part of Mitrovica, told Beta he had asked Clark, the Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, for more NATO-led peacekeepers (KFOR) to protect Serbs in Kosovo province.

He quoted Clark as saying NATO would not "allow extremists to expel Serbs from the northern part of the province."

The two met in KFOR military barracks in the Albanian-dominated southern part of the town.

Ivanovic said Clark had called on the Serbs to "cooperate more" with KFOR and with the United Nations civilian mission in the province.

Some 240,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians have fled Kosovo fearing ethnic Albanian violence since the arrival of the international force in the province in June last year, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

Representatives of Serbs who stayed on in the province after Belgrade troops withdrew have refused to join UN-sponsored institutions, insisting that Serb refugees should return to Kosovo first.

Ivanovic described Tuesday's violence in Mitrovica as a "terrorist act," linking it with ethnic Albanian pledges for an "independent Kosovo," the agency said.

Beta, quoting Albanian sources, said Clark had arrived to Kosovo province on Monday and had met Kosovo Albanian leader Hashim Thaci in the US KFOR military base Bondsteel.



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