Kosovo rebels mass arms - YU army chief

BELGRADE, Mar 9, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslavia's army chief said on Wednesday that Kosovo Albanian "terrorists" were massing weapons on the Kosovo-Serbia border to spread conflict to Serbia and provoke international intervention.

General Nebojsa Pavkovic said that together with their supporters in the towns of Bujanovac, Presevo and Medvedja, just inside government-controlled Serbia, the "terrorists" wanted to provoke a reaction by the Serbian security forces.

"Their plan is for this to create conditions for international intervention, allegedly to protect Albanian rights and freedoms," Pavkovic was quoted by Tanjug news agency as saying in an interview with Thursday's edition of the weekly Vojska.

"With this aim, and under KFOR protection, they are massing large quantities of weapons near Kosovo's administrative border with Serbia, and building facilities for attacks and protection," Pavkovic said.

Pavkovic said the Albanians were organising military training on surprise attacks, ambushes and diversions.

Leaders of the now-disbanded ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army have denied links with a shadowy armed group that has emerged in Albanian villages inside government-controlled Serbia.

Local Albanians and Serbs both fear a re-run of the Kosovo conflict in the area after a series of clashes between Serb police and the rebels, who say they are only protecting their villages from alleged police brutality.

Pavkovic added there were a number of illegal organisations working to expel Serbs from Kosovo through murders, abductions and other crimes and that they also planned to conduct terrorist actions outside Kosovo.

Deputy Serbian Prime Minister Dragan Todorovic, a member of the ultra-nationalist Radical Party, said armed Albanians in Kosovo and nearby villages in government-controlled Serbia were spreading panic and also accused the West of backing them.

"The Serbian government expects ethnic Albanian terrorists to intensify their terrorist activities at the break of Spring, with the help of KFOR and UNMIK, especially in Bujanovac, Presevo and Medvedja," Todorovic said.

"They are doing this to destabilise us in their attempts to create a so-called Greater Albania," Todorovic added.

Belgrade accuses Kosovo's separatist leaders of seeking to unite the province with neighbouring Albania.

The NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) have expressed concern over the clashes inside Serbia and stepped up controls on the border.

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