KFOR commander sounds alarm in eastern Kosovo
CAMP MONTEITH, Yugoslavia, Mar 11, 2000 -- (AFP) The German commander of NATO-led forces in Kosovo warned local extremists Friday he would not allow them to stir up trouble in southern Serbia's Presevo valley.
General Klaus Reinhardt, who heads the KFOR peacekeeping force, warned ethnic Albanian extremists he would not tolerate trouble in Kosovo's eastern sector, but also condemned violence against the Albanian population.
The situation along the boundary between this southern Yugoslav province and the Presevo valley "could develop into a regional security issue," Reinhardt told reporters at the camp close to Gnjilane.
"Therefore, we condemn any actual or threatened actions against the population who live in the neighboring regions of Serbia," he said in a statement is at this US military base.
Around 75,000 ethnic Albanians live in the Presevo valley, but some 6,000 have fled rising tension to seek shelter in Kosovo or Macedonia.
Reinhardt spoke to journalists accompanied by Hashim Thaci, the political head of the now disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
Extremist Albanians are suspected of running arms into the valley and carrying out attacks against local Serb police, who have in turn been accused by ethnic Albanian refugees of intimidation and violence.
An Albanian group calling itself the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac -- the three largest cities in the region -- appeared on January 26 at the funeral of two Albanians killed by Serb police.
It is known by its Albanian-language acronym, UCPMB.
Reinhardt made it clear that KFOR was ready to act against the group.
"We are prepared to take all necessary actions to ensure that Kosovo is not used as a staging base for exporting violence into the Presevo Valley," he warned.
On March 3, UCPMB militants and Serb police clashed in Dobrosin, a Serb village 200 meters (yards) from the boundary with Kosovo, and the site where they first appeared.
A week earlier a militant and a policeman died in a similar firefight.
Reinhardt said KFOR was closing down roads, and increasing surveillance activities, checkpoints, and patrols, to intercept guerrillas infiltrating into an internationally-recognized demilitarized zone.